The Colorado Avalanche got into the postseason picture with a 10-game winning streak in January, and now they’re climbing the standings with another impressive streak.
Now they need to carry that momentum into Friday night’s game against the Nashville Predators. The way they’ve been playing that shouldn’t be a problem.
Colorado (38-24-8) is 6-0-3 in its last nine games, including two wins in places it has struggled recently. The Avalanche won in Minnesota on Tuesday night and then ended a two-game road trip with a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues to move into the first wild-card position.
The win stopped a five-game losing streak at Scottrade Center and moved Colorado within a point of the Wild for third in the Central Division. Led by Nathan MacKinnon, who had three points against the Blues, including his 34th and 35th goals, the Avalanche aren’t just aiming for a wild-card spot but one of the three playoff bids that comes with finishing in the top three in the division.
And there is potentially more good news for Colorado. Top defenseman Erik Johnson, who has missed 12 games with a shoulder injury, is close to returning.
“It goes without saying EJ is a big part of our team and a big part of our defense — and offense. He’s a big presence on the ice and he’s a great leader,” Avalanche captain Gabe Landeskog told The Denver Post. “This time of year, as a group, we just have to find ways to get points in every game and I think we’ve realized — although some of the overtimes haven’t gone the way we’ve wanted — we want more and we’re never satisfied. That’s been our mind-set all year long. It doesn’t matter who’s in the lineup or who’s out, it’s just about getting the job done.”
Johnson probably won’t be in the lineup Friday, which makes it a tougher task against the Western Conference-leading Predators. As hot as Colorado has been, Nashville has topped it, going 10-0-1 in the last 11 games, including a 3-2 win in Arizona on Thursday night.
The Predators (46-14-10) were dealt a blow when they announced forward Calle Jarnkrok will miss the rest of the regular season with an upper-body injury suffered in the win over Winnipeg on Tuesday. Jarnkrok, who has 16 goals and 19 assists this season, could return in the postseason depending on how far Nashville advances.
The good news for the Predators is they have depth at forward.
“Certainly I think the addition of Ryan Hartman coming in here has been big,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette told The Tennessean. “He’s been down playing with (Nick) Bonino. They’ve played together, so that combination is there. Ryan can chip in. Colton Sissons is a guy that can always chip in. (Miikka) Salomaki gets back in the lineup. He was playing really well when he came out, too.”
No matter who is in the lineup the matchup between the two hottest teams in the NHL is going to impact the Western Conference playoff picture. A Colorado win and a Minnesota loss in Vegas would vault the Avalanche into third place and tighten the race for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs